Molly Martens and her father Tom could face no further time in prison for the death of Jason Corbett if they accept a plea bargain in court today.
The pair are due in court today for a retrial for second-degree murder of 39-year-old Irishman Jason Corbett – Ms Martens’ husband - in 2015.
Ms Martens and her father were charged with murder after Mr Corbett was was beaten to death with a metal baseball bat and a concrete paving slab in 2015.
They were convicted of murder in 2017 but were allowed a retrial after US courts ruled that certain evidence had been excluded.
The father and daughter are expected to opt for a plea bargain that will reduce the charge to voluntary manslaughter.
Irish Independent Correspondent Ralph Riegel is in North Carolina for the trial and told Late Breakfast with Clare McKenna the pair have a number of options in court today.
“They can reject the plea bargain offer, they can accept it, or what they can also do is under US law, there's a unique mechanism called an Alford plea,” he said.
“Alford plea means that they can maintain their innocence, but that they accept the prosecution has a good chance or likelihood of securing a conviction based on the evidence involved.
“If it does go down the route of a plea bargain deal today, which we understand that it will, then what will happen is that instead of it becoming a retrial, it will essentially become a bench sentencing hearing.”
He noted no jury has been selected for the supposed retrial today and, while a trial would be expected to last six weeks, only two weeks have been scheduled for the case in the courthouse.
If the Martens accept the plea bargain, Mr Riegel said the pair might not face any time in prison.
“The parameters for voluntary manslaughter range between three years in prison, or up to nine years in prison if the judge determines that there are aggravating factors,” he said.
“If the judge opts for the lower, both Tom and Molly Martens will walk free from custody because they have already served three and a half years of the 20-to-25-year sentence that was imposed in August of 2017.”
Mr Riegal said this is “very interesting” given the level of evidence presented in the original trial in 2017.
“Firstly, that there was an attempt to drug Mr Corbett,” he said.
“Secondly, the level of violence was absolutely beyond the scale in terms of people defending themselves – both Tom and Molly were uninjured.
“Probably of greatest concern was the fact that there was evidence given by Dr Stuart James, who was a blood spatter expert, who said in his opinion it appeared that the initial blow was struck by Mr Corbyn was asleep in bed.”
'Long and torturous'
Mr Riegel said the case has been “long and very torturous” for Mr Corbett’s family.
“At the very centre of this, a family have lost a beloved father and a beloved brother,” he said.
“They have been radically dignified throughout the years, which really has been a judicial nightmare for them.
“That was borne out last night because here in Lexington, Mr Corbett’s children – Jack who’s 19 and Sarah who’s 17 - organised a special balloon release at the plants that their father used to manage.”
Mr Corbett moved to the US after marrying Ms Martens, who had been the children’s nanny, in 2015.
17-year-old Ms Corbett previously said she had “lost faith” in the US justice system.